In order to be approved for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, your income must fall under a certain amount, stipulated by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Determining whether you meet SSI income limits is not as straightforward as it sounds. There are various factors that come into play. For example, the income limit may change slightly each year and the SSA may factor in or exclude certain types of income, gifts, or shelter when calculating your limit.
Below, we discuss what types of income the SSA considers for the purposes of SSI and what the income threshold is. For specific questions about your eligibility, you can contact one of our SSI lawyers at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A. for a free consultation: 419-843-6663.
What are the income limits for SSI?
Generally, the SSA sets the income limit for SSI at the Federal Benefit Rate (FBR), a figure linked to the consumer price index. FBR is also known as the Federal Payment Standard or the SSI Standard Benefit Amount. The actual figure may change annually if the consumer price index fluctuates.
In 2016, the income limit for SSI was set at $733/individuals or $1,100/couples. So when you apply for benefits and the SSA calculates your income (minus your exemptions), your income must be below $733 (or $1,100) in order to collect SSI.
In 2017, there will be 0.3 percent marginal cost of living adjustment (COLA); this means the 2017 FBR will be $735/individuals and $1,103 for couples.
What types of income does the SSA count toward the SSI income limit?
If your income exceeds the FBR, do not get discouraged yet — you might still qualify. The SSA does not count all income. For the purposes of SSI, the only types of income that typically go toward your income are:
- Earned income: wages, net earnings from self-employment, some types of royalties, and sheltered workshop payments
- Unearned income: Social Security benefits, unemployment benefits, pensions, disability payments, interest income, and cash gifts from friends and relatives
- In–kind income: food or shelter that you get for free or for less than the fair market value
- Deemed income: part of the income of certain people you live with, including your parent or spouse
What types of income does the SSA exclude from the SSI income limit?
Fortunately, the SSA may not count a large portion of your income towards your limit. The full list of exclusions is too long to include here, but some types of exempt income includes the following:
- Social services;
- Income tax refunds;
- Bills paid by someone else for things other than food or shelter
- Replacement of lost or stolen income
- Home energy assistance;
- $20 a month of earned or unearned income
- The first $65 of earnings and half of your earnings over $65 received in a month
- Disaster assistance
- Food stamp assistance [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)]
- Government refunds of taxes paid on real property
- Money you received for tuition and fees for education expenses that were paid from grants, scholarships, fellowships, and gifts
- Earned income tax credit payments and child tax credit payments
- Federal refundable and advanced tax credits received on or after January 1, 2010
Because the SSA does not count a large portion of earned income, you may be able to make substantially more than the $733 limit and still receive SSI.
Why is income so important to SSI?
The FBR income limit is important for two distinct reasons. First, it determines whether you qualify for SSI benefits. If your counted earnings are over the limit, the SSA will deny your SSI application.
Second, the FBR is also the maximum monthly benefit amount that SSI recipients can receive. No individual on SSI will receive more than $733/month in 2016. Furthermore, your counted income will offset your monthly benefit. In other words, your income will reduce the amount of your monthly SSI check.
Here is an example of how the SSA calculates SSI benefits for someone who earns $400/month:
- Step 1: $400 in gross wages – $20 for the allotted income exemption – $65 (because first $65 of earnings is also exempt) = $315
- Step 2: $315 x 0.5 (only half of your remaining income is counted) = $157.50 in counted income
- Step 3: $733 (the current SSI FBR) – $157.50 in countable income = $575.50 SSI benefit amount
Find out if you meet SSI disability qualifications. Get a Free Evaluation.
Determining eligibility can seem confusing and for good reason; the math can certainly get complicated. You may want to have a disability attorney review your case and determine if your counted income will meet the SSI income limit requirements.
Your lawyer can also assist you with other important tasks, such as collecting medical data to prove your impairment to the SSA, explaining what your rights and responsibilities are, ensuring all of your paperwork is accurate and complete, and even helping you appeal your case if the SSA denied your application.
It is not uncommon for the SSA to deny disability applications. In fact, the SSA initially denies the majority of claims due to either technical reasons or insufficient medical evidence.
Should the SSA deny your SSI application, you have the right to appeal the SSA’s decision. If you or your child has a medically determinable disability and you meet all the criteria for SSI, it is important not to give up on your benefits.
Our Social Security lawyers at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A. can help you pursue the disability benefits to which you are entitled. Throughout our 60+ years of practice, we have helped thousands of individuals and families across Ohio get the benefits they need and deserve.
Call our office today at 419-843-6663 for a FREE evaluation to see if we may be able to do the same for you.